Shut-down Japanese nuclear plant hit by fire

Published 21 September 2007

In July Japan’s largest nuclear power plant was damaged, and radiation was leaked, as a result of 6.8 earthquake; yesterday, parts of the shut-down plant caught fire

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. A fire broke out at a Japanese nuclear plant which has been closed since it was damaged by an earthquake in July.

The fire at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata prefecture was sparked by a fault in a cooler on the roof of the plant, a spokesman said. Workers extinguished the flames and there was no danger of a radioactive leak, the spokesman said. The plant, Japan’s largest, has been closed since the area was struck by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in July. Experts were assessing the extent of the damage and the cause of the fire, he said.

The BBC reports that the plant suffered some fifty diferent malfunctions in the July quake, which also left eleven people dead and hundreds injured in the surrounding area. A team from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was called in after it emerged that leakages of radioactive material had been much bigger than initially estimated. In a report released last month, the team found that the damage was not as extensive as previously thought. It said that the power station had operated safely both during and after the quake, but that further investigations were needed in case of hidden damage.

The closure of the plant triggered concern about power shortages, and it is not yet clear when it will reopen. Japan is heavily reliant on nuclear power, but the safety of its installations has come under the spotlight in recent years after a string of accidents and mishaps.

The latest mishap Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant happened the same week the government of Ukraine announced a $600 million contract to entomb the remnants of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in a new steel encasing.